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School protests outside of University
of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

PHOTO/JACOB FLOM

By Todd Alan Price

Milwaukee Public School (MPS) teachers, students and supporters gathered at the Milwaukee French Immersion School, weathering sprinkles of rain on July 30th. Their mission was to fight against lay offs.

Simulation Public Education

Students performed a skit, depicting the impact of budget cuts on teacher layoffs and the resultant overcrowding of classrooms.

The point made at this SOS Million Teacher March was that too many students with too few teachers would result in students getting less attention, fewer books and deadening curriculum.

Beyond the immediate concern of teacher layoffs and budget cuts is the stark reality that our country is offering only a substandard simulation of what public education could be.

Consider the words of one of the teachers and one of the school board members. They know that public education is being made the fall guy for the thievery of Wall Street, how the working peoples are being made to pinch pennies by the state, while the corporations post record profits, after being bailed out by the state.

Tina Owen, an English teacher: “I’ve been to budget decision gatherings where we’ve gone line through line to figure out what can be cut and there was nothing there. What it really comes down to is this: The funding formula is broken. We’re getting less money from the state. We’re getting less money from the federal government . . .And we’re not putting money into schools, where it really needs to be!”

Terry Falk, an MPS School Board Director: “Our school board didn’t like the cuts they made, but I want you to understand we were cut funding by the state of Wisconsin. And we’re limited by law how much we can raise taxes. We see people saying ‘we’re leaving our children a huge debt’ and calling it ‘immoral’. But what is ‘moral’ about cutting classes and putting kids in [overcrowded schools]? We need to get a conversation in this country about what it means to have educated children, and how we’re going to sustain that education, for the long haul.”

The Inevitable Revolution

The woeful state of funding for public education has collapsed. What is known as the school funding formula, is the shame of the nation. Based on the property tax and given the bursting of the real estate bubble, the system is beyond broken. Property taxes alone have not provided much sense of equity or adequacy for schools across the social and economic divide today of an America where a handful of fabulously wealthy haves, and a deplorably large and growing-ever-larger class of have-nots share unequal access to everything.

What if the Pentagon had to throw a bake sale to pay for its bombs and for its civilian killing drones? What if on the other hand public education was seen as a right, not a race? And what if public education were funded to a greater fraction of the defense department budget and all of the secret off-the-book agencies that continue to spend tax payer monies, had to go through line by line and make adjustments before the public?

While Congress saved some of the teacher jobs, there will be the same problem next year until we get serious and have a real conversation on public education reform

So, as School Board Director Falk urges, “Run the race, run the marathon, it’s not a sprint.”






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Warehouse robot. In the US,
fully automated warehouses
are becoming a reality as the
industry is looking to reduce
labor costs and improve
productivity and accuracy.

PHOTO/FOTOSEARCH.COM

By Tony Zaragoza

This column will periodically cover examples of the latest in automation and robotics around the world — from nano-robotics to large-scale industrial automation focusing primarily on the impacts these technologies have on the economy and society, including labor replacement, war, and impacts on how society operates.

Drones, otherwise known as Unmanned Arial Combat Vehicles (UACVs), are playing a growing part in the US war on Iraq and Afghanistan. These include the Predator and the Reaper. Both the US and UK are developing new stealth drones (US: Avenger & UK: Taranis) are more difficult to be detected by radar and have the capability to fly higher, quicker and longer with a bigger payload. The US government is using drones to patrol the US-Mexico border, and South Korea has recently deployed remote control robots armed with machine guns to patrol the border between it and North Korea.

In the US, fully automated warehouses are becoming a reality as the industry is looking to reduce labor costs and improve productivity and accuracy. Some even see this as a green solution as automated warehouses would not need lighting, heating or cooling. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog, structural unemployment, that fact that there are fewer jobs as more people look for work, has been going on for 30 years while over the last 10-15 there has been an decrease in higher paid, and often union, manufacturing jobs while low pay, low skill service jobs have been growing. Though many are experiencing the jobless recovery with full force, many robotics and automation companies have seen the economy turn around in their favor as profits are up and sales have begun to increase again as various parts of the economy look to add new technologies to their arsenal.

In India’s Detroit, Chennai, one plant has recently installed ninety-two robots to do nearly one third of the work of the plant. In Kenya, the Chemelil Sugar Company is moving forward with automation of some key sugar processing operations to cut costs in order to compete with with other sugar producers. Other labor replacing technologies may follow in Kenya resulting in fewer jobs in the country. Calgary Canada’s Parking Authority will lay off over 30 workers who are being replaced by a computerized system.

Many of these new computerized machines could be used to make life easier for all the people of the planet, but instead they are used to make war and make money for corporations. For links to the news stories covered here go to PeoplesTribune.org.

Links for Website: Deploying Drones in U.S. Skies http://www.roboticstrends.com/service_robotics/article/deploying_drones_in_us_skies/ Killer Drones Get Stealthy — http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/07/killer-drones-get-stealthy/

BAE reveals UK’s first combat robot aircraft — http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d0150558-8de4-11df-9153-00144feab49a.html/ Why Warehouses are Adopting Automation — http://www.supplychaindigital.com/industry-focus/warehousing-and-storage/why-warehouses-are-adopting-automation/

Should We Replace Workers With Robots to Save Energy? — http://www.fastcompany.com/1553957/should-we-replace-workers-with-robots-to-save-energy/

Secondary Sources: Basel III, Structural Unemployment, Securitization — http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2010/07/27/secondary-sources-basel-iii-structural-unemployment-securitization/

Rockwell Automation 3Q Profit More Than Triples — http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9H83KC02.htm/ Siemens Returns To Growth As Order Intake Surges — http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20100729-707061.html/ Honeywell 2Q Profit Up 4% Amid Improving Sales; View Raised — http://www.automatedtrader.net/real-time-dow-jones/7204/honeywell-2q-profit-up-4-amid-improving-sales-view-raised/

ParkPlus automation will cause 33 city job losses — http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/ParkPlus+automation+will+cause+city+losses/3253924/story.html

Ford Motor India Hires Robots — http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2010/07/09/ford-motor-india-hires-robots/?KEYWORDS=ROBOT/ Chemelil eyes automation in bid to boost efficiency — http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Chemelil%20eyes%20automation%20in%20bid%20to%20boost%20efficiency/-/539444/957942/-/70c7xr/-/


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